22 March 2010 Monday of the 5th Week of Lent
Daniel 13, 1-62; Psalm 23; John 18, 12-20
Have you ever been falsely accused? Are you a victim of another person’s lie?
Today we hear of the moving story of Susanna. She is accused of having an illicit affair with a young man while married to a very rich and respectable Jew named Joakim. The accusers are two wicked old men. They are appointed judges to the exiled Jewish community in Babylon.
The story goes like this. Joakim marries Susanna, a beautiful and God-fearing woman. She has been well-trained in the law of Moses by her parents; her dad, Hilkiah, is mentioned in the reading. Now, Joakim has a beautiful garden, and Susanna takes a walk in the garden at noon. Secretly, the two judges who visits Joakim regularly, spy on her, eventually developing sexual desires. Upon admitting to each other their lust for her, the two agree to wait for a situation when they might be alone with her.
That hour comes on a hot afternoon. Susanna orders her maidservants to close the garden doors and to prepare a bath for her. When the maids have gone, the two men jump on the situation and demand that she lies with them or else, if she refuses, they will testify that they saw a young man with her in the garden.
In the dilemma, Susanna chooses to cry for help. She decides that “it is better for me to fall into your power without guilt than to sin before the Lord” (v. 23). To cut the story short, when she cries for help, the elders accuse her falsely and decides to put her to death.
Susanna protests her innocence to the Lord and her prayer is answered. The Lord inspires Daniel to speak out in her defense. In her trial, Daniel separates the two and each one is asked the same question: Under what tree did they see Susanna and her lover? One gives a mastic tree for an answer, while the other says, an oak. The people discovers the lie that the two men concocted, and thus they are put to death. In Deuteronomy, one has to suffer the fate false accusers plan for the victim. Susanna therefore is found innocent.
The story tells us that in the midst of a false accusation, we stand to protect our integrity. Often it challenges us to be courageous and to believe that eventually the truth will prevail. Like Susanna, we learn that purity, truthfulness and prayer are rewarded by God.
In a culture of gossip and a tendency to exact revenge on those who have hurt us, it is easy to destroy the reputation of others through our different social networks. We do have haters in facebook and especially in the twitter world. We do find this situation in the electoral campaigns where candidates expose whatever scandalous data they can put their hands on about their rivals. It has become part of the game.
If we find ourselves leaning towards this, we should remember that accusing a person falsely is a grave sin. In fact, it is a violation of a basic human right: we all are innocent unless proven guilty.
Here’s a video from Youth For Human Rights.